iPad Publishing: is A Singing Whale the first of many?

At the beginning of July, Ryu Murakami announced that he would be publishing his new book, A Singing Whale, with Apple as an exclusive iPad download. This is not ‘just an eBook’ either: with video content and a soundtrack by Oscar-winning Ryuichi Sakamoto (who has collaborated with one of my favourite contemporary artists, Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto), this book will be unlike anything else we’ve ‘read’ before and I’ll certainly be adding to my reading list to give it a go (not that I have an iPad. Yet).

However, as technology progresses and we are offered new and innovative forms of reading, what does this mean for the publishing industry? As  intriguing and exciting as Ryu Murakami’s deal with Apple is, he has left his publisher in the dust and gone straight to the technology giant to get his new book to readers. Not so bad if it’s just him, perhaps, but what if there are many authors that follow hot on his heels (and I think there will probably be a fair few)? It’s a worrying thought but, just maybe, we’ll see the world of reading develop more fully from a beleif that only one form of publishing can exist to realising that there are different markets and that both eBooks (especially those that are complemented by audio and visual elements) and proper books (if I dare call them that) can exist together, each offering different things: we’ll have eBooks and paper books, not one or the other; the sphere of reading may open up, particularly if technology is able to engage with different readers and bring them to the world of literature by new means. I don’t think that my desire to read A Singing Whale will in any way change the fact that I love to read a good novel with pages.

Maybe this won’t signal the beginning of the end but rather the beginning of a new beginning for reading, one that encompasses technology and tradition, and alongside that, if we can continue to encourage more people to be sharing their reading in groups, the reading revolution may be kicking off very differently. Or maybe I’m just hoping for the best of both worlds and in reality, that’s just not possible. Time will tell. And during that time, what will I really spend more time on, reading books or thinking of ways in which I can make money to buy an iPad? One guess.

Simon Armitage Walks O’er Vales and Hills

Amongst the favourite poems with our readers in Get Into Reading groups are those by Simon Armitage. Today I discovered that the Yorskhire poet is walking the 264 mile Pennine Way. Not only is he walking (in the wind, rain and, at times, sunshine), he is doing it without a penny. He is getting by on the power of his poetry alone (and the general kindness of the British public), in his words, “it’s basically 264 miles of begging”.

Read about how he’s getting on with his walk on the BBC’s website and more about his project (and forthcoming book about it) on The Independent’s.

Enid Blyton’s Famous Five Get 21st-century Makeover

Farewell to the awful swotters, dirty tinkers and jolly japes: Enid Blyton’s language is being dragged out of the 1940s by her publisher in an attempt to give her books greater appeal for today’s children.

Read the article from Friday’s Guardian in full here and let us know what you think.

From The Reader 15: Will Self on Motorway Service Stations

Country Walks
by Will Self

1. Toddington Services. Distance – 53 metres. Approximate time – Four hours for a fit walker, six hours if you’re only in moderate condition.

Leave your car by the driver, passenger or rear doors. Leave it slowly and carefully, remember, nothing is more easy than to become entangled in your seat belt, or lose your way in a fug of child fart and cigarette smoke. Make sure your mobile phone is switched on at all times. If you find yourself lost during this first part of the walk nothing can be easier than to call up the mobile phone you keep in the glove compartment, and then, by employing an orienteering compass and the driver’s handbook, to take a bearing, in order to ascertain exactly where it is you may have got to. Having gained the ground thread your way between the tiny peaks and troughs of the Asphalt Surface, noting its beauty and resilience. The thick white lines may be a struggle to cross, but the views from their summits are awe inspiring. The first beauty spot is a rubbish bin overflowing with half-chewed chips, mashed chicken nuggets, mushed burger buns, crushed soft drink cans, which in summer is a breeding ground for a buzzing, multicoloured horde of flies and wasps. Many walkers will enjoy sitting down for an hour or so here – utilising a discarded fag packet as a hide – and fly watching. Pressing on after a very dry sandwich, it should be possible to reach the booth where they sell AA membership in under an hour. The steps up to the automatic doors into the service centre can prove too much even for seasoned walkers, but don’t worry, bearers, porters and a chairlift are all available. Once inside the service centre follow the rank stench of urine in the direction of the toilets, but veer off at the point when you realise you’d like to buy some chewing gum. Do not be disturbed by the way people hear wear plastic wrappers disguising their gender. Was it not always thus? You can overnight in the Travel Lodge, where prosaic dreams represent genuine value for money.

Global Coffee Price List

Espresso – £1.00

Double Espresso – £1.40

Cappuccino – £1.50

Latte (tall / grande) – £1.20 / £1.50

Cluster Bomb Latte (includes over three hundred extra little coffee bomblets, each one of which will burst to cover the customer with the products of a well established multinational brand. Make your own choice form Nike, Gap, Adidas, Microsoft, Intel, Ghost, Disney, Body News Corp, Apple, IBM and many many more) – £1.40

Extra Shot – 50p

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This originally appeared in The Reader magazine, issue 15. Subscribe to the magazine here.

Art Meets Print

This is not to say that one should judge a book by its cover but, if you like a good book cover, visit Art Meets Print, where you will find something simply perfect if you are a serious bibliophile, graphic design nerd, poet, minimalist, person who can’t decide what to put on their walls, pretentious literary type, and any combination thereof.

I think they’re wonderful (I am also wondering quite what combination thereof I am…).

Industry Seminar: The Art of the Matter

All About Audiences is hosting an Industry Seminar entitled ‘ The Art of the Matter: the rewards of working in arts & health’ on Tuesday 27 July at The National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

The day will look at benefits that arts & culture can bring to the health sector; how to make your offer relevant and why you should bother.

If you’re keen to explore the opportunities presented by cross-sector working, or to increase your confidence and skills in working on issues of health and wellbeing, this seminar is perfect for you. Get Into Reading will be there as an example of arts and health cross-sector working.

Full details about the seminar can be found here: http://www.allaboutaudiences.com/events/theartofthematter

BA in English Literature and Community Engagement at Bristol University

Bristol University’s English Department is now recruiting for its part-time BA (Hons) in English Literature and Community Engagement for September 2010. This is an undergraduate degree, taught one evening per week (plus occasional Saturdays) over six years.

The degree is the first in this country to combine literary study and community work throughout the programme. Each student will have the opportunity to study a full range of literature in English and also to run a reading group in the community (or at their workplace) as part of their studies.

More information here.

ReWired at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Last night we hosted ‘ReWired and Reading: Sonja Sohn in Conversation’ in the sun-filled Rodewald Suite at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

Jane Davis and Sonja Sohn

The event was sold out and Sonja proved to be a very special guest indeed. Not only was she engaging, witty and sensitive, she took total control of the stage, gauging the audience’s enthusiasm for her words: “nah guys, let’s not stop for a break, shall we just carry on talking?!”, “Yes!” was the overriding response. She told us about how she got into acting through performance poetry, what her audition for The Wire was like, what it was like to be on set with ‘all those guys’ and how she’s now gone back to Baltimore to set up ReWired for Change, helping at-risk young people to build on their courage and success and improve their standard of life.

Sonja Sohn

It felt like the conversation could have gone on all night (the audience asking her to continue talking rather than using the time for signings!), so I’m sure she’ll be back…

Here’s what some of our guests thought:

What really struck me about Sonia was the fluency and honesty with which she talked about her work with ReWired for Change. It wasn’t rehearsed or worthy – not just another platform for an actress to promote herself – but the voice of someone who had found what she was good for, where she could do good. It was really inspiring to listen to a woman who in herself and in her actions is the hope that breaks the circularity of the life presented to us so powerfully in The Wire.

We already know what an impact reading can have, I found it inspiring to hear how much good can be triggered by a television programme!

Jane’s thoughtful questions and Sonja’s warm, ample responses thrilled the audience.  It was as if we were part of the strong, sincere friendship which links these two women and their organisations and which brought Sonja to Liverpool.  The link between Rewired for Change and The Reader Oganisation was epitomised by this honest, wide-ranging conversation.  Moments relived, insights shared, own motives analysed – these are the stuff of Get Into Reading: We were charmed by Sonja’s openness and generosity.  A force for good.

I really enjoyed last night- Sonja was inspirational. I was really moved by the emphasis that she put on the need for hope in Baltimore. The possibility of change is something that many of the young people we work with need and may find in Get Into Reading groups, so it felt like she was really confirming the importance of what we are doing in our community.

Her philosophy, and what she says has led to her eventual success, is to ‘try anything once and to listen to the little voice in your head if it’s telling you to do something’. [You can read the full review, from which this is taken, on  ‘Feeling Listless’.]

You can see more photos from the event here.